For more than 30 years, California farmer and entrepreneur Larry Jacobs has been a pioneer in scalable and equitable organic food production, demonstrating that food can be grown profitably without chemicals.
In April 2012, the Natural Resources Defense Council named Jacobs the Business Leader winner in its 2013 Growing Green Awards that honor leaders and innovators in sustainable food and agriculture.
After his own dangerous encounter with pesticides in his early 20s, Jacobs dedicated his life’s work to championing organic farming with innovative non-toxic pest control. He founded California-based Jacobs Farm, which claims to be the nation’s largest producer of fresh culinary organic herbs. He built the Del Cabo Co-operative, a 1,000 family farmer-strong partnership supporting organic growing in Baja, Mexico, and he also set a legal precedent protecting organic farmers from drifting pesticides. Jacob’s efforts inspire new sustainable food opportunities for thousands of families across the Western Hemisphere. He is currently involved in the development of two new products.
“We’ve been working with researchers at the University of California-Santa Cruz, who brought back from Japan the idea of creating anaerobic-no air-conditions in the field to reduce soil disease,” said Jacobs. “Our part has been to develop field practices for widespread use.
“Based on production we’re seeing on the 150 acres we treated last fall and by farmer response, we’re optimistic that this is a less expensive replacement for methyl bromide and with comparable results when done correctly,” he cotinued. “Developing and providing the agricultural community with technologies gleaned from nature will increase yields and reduce our dependence on toxic materials. This gives farmers better tools to farm more sustainably into the future.”
Jacobs was also instrumental in developing a mustard meal product that Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo markets as a soil amendment.
“We’ve known since we began doing trials that some mustards are high in glucosinolates,” he said. “When seed is crushed, the enzyme myrosinase comes in contact with the glucosinolates molecule. Add water and you get a reaction that changes glucosinolates to isothiocyanates and other chemicals. The isothiocyanates are biocidal and herbicidal. We’re using these properties to reduce disease pathogens in the soil and have found it works as well as soil fumigants for nematocides. More exciting, we’re finding that we’re changing the soil microbiology and believe that under the right conditions, we’re creating a soil that suppresses plant diseases over several years. This is a big deal.”
Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo has also teamed up with an entomologist and a semiochemist to find and use the signaling chemicals of beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, to be able to increase their populations in fields in anticipation of an insect that feeds on the crop. “We’re in the embryonic stage of developing this idea but are confident there is much to learn from nature that will provide us powerful new tools and strategies for managing how we grow food.”
Jacobs also hosts a blog titled “A Good Bug Doesn’t Mean a Dead Bug” at www.onearth.org.